Yesterday I had a wonderful conversation with my American Literature class about playing with books. I told them that I had spent a day at the MIT media lab two summers ago, and I was impressed by Mitch Resnick and the folks there at the Media Lab because they had this great problem solving model:
The Lifelong Kindergarten Group (which is what the folks at MIT call themselves) believes that we are at our most creative in Kindergarten when we are allowed to construct meaning for ourselves. Imagine a city at the beach, build a sand castle with moat and village, play for a while, invite friends to play and build, think about how it could be better, imagine a new city on the beach…Or stomp through it and start over. I asked my students how we could bring this model to the study of American Literature. Their ideas were both complimentary and challenging.
- They liked the fact that we don’t do the same thing every day.
- They like the fact that there is not always an analytic essay at the end of the reading of a book.
- They liked working on sentences yesterday – real sentences that they wrote, not to correct them but to improve their focus and sophistication, to look clearly at verb choices and parallel structure, to look at audience and intent.
- They like different modes of response.
- They like that everything doesn’t need to have a grade assigned to it, that they can PLAY with ideas and not set them in stone.
- They like building on each others’ ideas.
- They told me that I am one of a few teachers that recognizes how hard it is to focus on Friday at 2:00 and that the application of chocolate is an excellent addition to the class at that moment.
These are all exciting things that seem easy in the abstract but complex in the execution. How is it that playing with books, words, and ideas can be so complicated?